What do pure rural Buddhists believe in?

Amida Buddhism: Real Buddhists or Whimsical Weirdos?

In the early morning Jan Marc Nottelmann walks through the temple gate into the quiet Japanese garden. There he strolls leisurely past a pond, crosses the stone bridge and leaves the huge bell tower behind him until he arrives in front of the temple. Like the whole complex, it is in the Japanese aristocratic style. In front of the floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, Nottelmann takes off his shoes, walks in and kneels at the gold-decorated altar. Then he bows in front of the Buddha statue, which is framed by flowers and candles.

How Buddhist! Many contemporaries would exclaim. But then Nottelmann reads a text out loud. This comes from the Japanese Buddhist Shinran and says roughly that the believers can trust a transcendent being called Amida. Amida will redeem them after their death, they should hope in him.

And with that, Nottelmann's morning devotion comes to an end again. He does not sit on the meditation cushion, nor does he train breath or mindfulness. He trusts and simply hopes that Amida's strength will fix it, puts his shoes on again and goes back to his day's work.

How unbuddhistic! Many western contemporaries would comment on that. This supposed contradiction characterizes what is probably the most unknown of all Buddhist currents in this country, to which Nottelmann also belongs: the group of Amida, Amithaba or Pure Land Buddhists. On the one hand, they see themselves as urbuddhist, on the other hand, according to many Western believers, they turn the Buddha's teaching on its head.

Splinter group or mainstream

And that is why this current in Germany is often ridiculed as a bizarre version of the true teaching or simply ignored - by local media and religious researchers, but also by many German Buddhists. That might not be worth mentioning if the Amida believers were just a splinter group. But that's not true even for Germany. After all, there are several thousand Japanese and Chinese in this country who are close to this variant of Buddhism.